Circadia [$0.99] looks like a meditative experience, but that’s a lie. The elements are all in place for a soothing time: a minimalistic design, gently ringing music tones, a wide expanse of black and nothing to distract you. That just means it’s devilish; this is a practical joke. Rather than lulling you into a centered state of mind, it will take all the attention you can spare. Expect to have your eyes and ears fully occupied. For an ultra-minimalistic rhythm puzzle game, Circadia is intricate.
It’s also gorgeous. The stark, elegant aesthetic is a big part of its draw. Each level consists of a black field, a faded level number and a nearly imperceptible menu button. Otherwise, there are dots: white ones that can’t be manipulated, and colored ones that can. Touching a colored dot plays a single note and sends out a circular pulse, like ripples in a pond. The level is complete when the pulse hits the white dot.
At first this is obscenely obvious—a single pulse has no choice but to hit a single dot eventually. Then a second dot appears, bearing a different color. It may play a higher tone, or a lower one. This determines the speed at which the pulses move. To progress, all the pulses need to hit the white dot at the same time. When they do, their colors mix on screen, their tones chime in a single chord.
Circadia quickly becomes a game of careful timing, lining up one pulse with the other so they land together precisely. The tones themselves give timing cues: it’s far easier to keep track of the time between two sounds than it is to establish exactly when you should repeat a tap on visual cues alone.
As you travel through the game’s chapters, more and more challenges pile on. Lining up three or more pulses that all move at different speeds is difficult; doing the same when the white dot is moving is much harder. Sometimes Circadia throws more white dots at you, and all of them must be hit at the same time. It requires incredible precision, and later levels can’t be forced through with wild tapping.
I stalled out eventually, unable to make all the elements of one level line up no matter how I tried. With more patience, more skill, I’m sure I could have made it through, but it wasn’t meant to be. I do wish I could have skipped past that wall. I hate knowing that I haven’t seen all 100 levels, and that there could be even more insane challenges to come.
That aside, Circadia is a game you can dig into. Tinkering and experimenting is rewarded— it’s a joy to see every moving part a half-moment from lining up. The elegance of the later levels, as each piece takes its part in a grander pattern—that’s something worth experiencing. Assuming, of course, you can get that far.